Amid the net neutrality madness on the Hill, Public Knowledge brought six individuals, including independent filmmakers, their organizational representatives and their insurers, to meet with Congress members and their staffs about [orphan works -- works for which the copyright holder cannot be found.](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphaned_work) This was the first time that any of them had come to Washington to educate policymakers.
Joining us were [Pam Colby, a filmmaker]( http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/filmography.html?p_id=416456) Executive Director of the Minneapolis Telecommunications Network and President of the Board of the [National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC)](http://www.namac.org/), [Diane Estelle Vicari, a filmmaker](http://onehearttibet.org/Documentary.html) and President of the International Documentary Association(http://www.documentary.org/), [Michael Donaldson, a film producer and a partner in the law firm of Donaldson & Hart]( http://www.donaldsonhart.com/attorneys_donaldson.htm), Sandra Ruch, Executive Director of the International Documentary Association, Winnie Wong, Vice President of [DeWitte, Stern Group, an entertainment insurance broker]( http://www.dewittstern.com/E-O.html), and [Jen Urban, Director of the IP Law Clinic at USC.](http://eon.annenberg.edu/details/person.jennifer.urban.php) Except for Pam, everyone was from California. PK hopes to make these visits at least an annual event, to ensure that members of Congress and their staffs understand that independent filmmakers have their own interests in copyright and technology policy that often differ from the large Hollywood studios.
Here we are right before our first meeting:
Each filmmaker had a story to tell about how the inability to find a copyright holder led them either to forgo using an orphan work or to take an enormous risk -- under current law, if an artist uses an orphan work and the copyright holder reappears, the artist could be liable for the full panoply of damages under the Copyright Act, which could amount to tens of thousands of dollars. Obviously, small artists like independent filmmakers cannot afford to take such a risk, in large part, as Winnie Wong explained, "Errors & Omissions" insurers will not insure a filmmaker who might be subject to a huge financial liability. Without that insurance, filmmakers cannot get their film distributed. The Copyright Office has proposed limiting artists' liability if they cannot find a copyright holder after undertaking a "reasonably diligent search" to find them. Rep. Lamar Smith has a bill that adopts this core proposal.